By on 4.17.18 in Carolina Demographics

Just over 666,000 veterans lived in North Carolina in 2016 according to the most recent American Community Survey estimates. This is a decrease of roughly 15,000 veterans or -2.2% from 2013, the year we last profiled North Carolina’s veterans. Nationally, the veteran population decreased at an even faster rate over this time (-5.6%). The U.S. veteran population declined from 19.6 million in 2013 to 18.5 million in 2016, a loss of 1.1 million veterans.

While the veteran population has been steadily declining, the total adult population continues to grow. As a result, veterans comprise a smaller share of the civilian adult population. In North Carolina, veterans now make up 8.6% of the adult population, down from 9.1% in 2013. Nationally, veterans are an even smaller share of the adult population: 7.4% in 2016 versus 8.1% in 2013.


North Carolina’s veterans are much older, on average, then the non-veteran adult population. Forty-five percent (45%) of NC veterans are 65 or older compared to just 18% of non-veteran adults. Just 10% of the state’s veterans are between the ages of 18 and 34, less than one-third the share of non-veterans (31%) in this age group.

Reflecting this older age structure, North Carolina veterans are more likely to have a disability than non-veterans. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of the state’s veterans reported a disability in 2016 compared to 16% of the state’s non-veterans.


Though North Carolina’s veterans are predominantly male, the female population of veterans is growing. In 2016, one in every ten veterans (10%) in the state was female, higher than the national average of 8.6%. The population of female veterans increased from just over 63,000 individuals in 2013 to nearly 68,000 in 2016.

Race & Ethnicity

The veteran population is somewhat less diverse than the state’s overall adult population, reflecting the relatively older age structure. Among North Carolina’s veterans:

  • 75% are white vs. 71% of non-veteran adults;
  • 21% are black vs. 21% of non-veterans;
  • 9% are American Indian vs. 1.2% of non-veterans;
  • 6% are Asian vs. 2.9% of non-veterans; and
  • 1% are some other race or multiracial vs. 4.3% of non-veterans.

The share of veteran adults identifying as Hispanic or Latino is less than half of the non-veteran share: 3.5% vs. 7.6%.

Period of Military Service

In North Carolina, like the nation, the largest share of veterans served during the Vietnam era: 35% in NC and 36% nationwide. Compared to the national average, North Carolina’s veterans are more likely to report Gulf War era service (45% vs. 38% nationally) and less likely to have served during the Korean War or World War II (10% vs. 13%).

Labor Force, Income, and Poverty

Compared to their non-veteran peers, North Carolina veterans of prime working age (18-64) are slightly more likely to be in the labor force and less likely to be unemployed:

  • 75.1% of NC veterans are in the labor force vs. 74.7% of NC non-veterans; and
  • 2% of NC veterans were unemployed in 2016 vs. 6.2% of NC non-veterans.

North Carolina’s veterans also had much higher median incomes than the non-veteran population. Among the population receiving income, the median veteran income in 2016 was $37,341, more than $11,000 higher than the median non-veteran income of $26,002.

Reflecting these higher incomes, North Carolina’s veterans were much less likely to be in poverty than non-veterans. Just 7.1% of the state’s veteran population had incomes below the poverty line in 2016, half the rate of the state’s non-veteran adult population (14.2%).

Educational Attainment

Though non-veterans are slightly more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (31% vs. 27% of veterans), North Carolina’s veterans are much more likely to have attended some college or received an associate’s degree (41% vs. 30%). In total, 68% of North Carolina veterans have some college or a postsecondary degree compared to 62% of non-veterans.

Veterans are also much more likely than non-veterans to have completed high school: just 6% of NC veterans reported less than a high school diploma in 2016 versus 14% of non-veterans.

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